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Overwhelming majority of UK-based French expats back Macron

·4 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Almost 93 per cent of French expats in the UK voted for Emmanuel Macron, voting data revealed on Monday, as they overwhelmingly rejected far right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential election run-off.

According to early overall projections, Mr Macron won more than 58 per cent of the vote with Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party securing over 41 per cent, helping him become the first French president to be re-elected in two decades.

According to voting information, released by France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, 41,601 French expats in Britain backed Mr Macron out of 45,706 people who voted. Just 3,151 expats voted for Ms Le Pen - around seven per cent of the vote.

The data revealed more than 111,000 French citizens based in the UK were eligible to vote in the election - meaning around 40 per cent of expats voted. That is significantly higher than the 28 per cent turnout in the election in France - the lowest for a presidential run off since 1969.

But while the UK-based vote for Mr Macron showed overwhelming support for the French President among the thousands of expatriates who mostly live in London, the number backing him fell slightly from 95 per cent in the last contest with Ms Le Pen in 2017.

Details of the vote came as one senior Conservative said on Monday that there would be relief in Whitehall at Mr Macron’s victory, which could present the UK with a chance to reset relations after a tense period over Brexit, immigration and Britain’s defence pact with the US and Australia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already presented the UK with a chance to repair relations with France and other European partners as they seek to present a united front against Vladmir Putin’s aggression.

Tory peeer Lord Hayward told Talk Radio: “No question that in Whitehall there will be a sense of relief today. It gives the opportunity for consistency which is probably convenient for the British government.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulated Mr Macron, saying his win was “immense for Western democracy and Western politics”. He added in a statement: “A huge tribute both to his personal leadership and the importance of the political centre.”

UK-French relations soured in recent months amid reports in a satirical magazine that Mr Macron viewed Boris Johnson as not being serious and had called him a “clown”.

Although Downing Street played down the reports of a rift with Paris, the death of 27 people while attempting to cross the Channel last November raised tensions over migrants using small boats to attempt to get to the UK from France.

There have also been clashes over fishing rights and Britain’s bid to rewrite the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, which sets trading arrangements for the region while Paris was furious at the AUKUS defence agreement between the UK, US and Australia which scuppered a prized French submarine deal with the Australian government.

On Monday, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, a minister in Mr Macron’s Government, hinted at past tensions with the UK over Brexit and French demands for a level playing field for trade and said it would be one of the president’s priorities to ensure fair competition to benefit the French people.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “We do know that European people need more protection...we need to find the right balance between openness of our economy because this is very much needed if we want to support growth but at the same time we need to anticipate the impact of open competition on the people within our countries...I think this is exacly what we are doing when we discuss around level playing fields with countries which are not inside the European Union”.

Pierre Karleskind, an MEP in Mr Macron’s En Marche Party, told Times Radio: “The French didn’t want Marine Le Pen, they didn’t want the far right..they did not want what she represents.”

But he acknowledged however that the size of the vote for Ms Le Pen was “a big concern for France, for democracy, for Europe”. He added: “This must concern all democracies in the world.”

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